April 22nd, 2013, 04:13 PM #1Junior Member
- Join Date
- Apr 2013
First Time to the Caribbean - advice needed!
As it’s our 25th wedding anniversary in June and my wife’s 50th birthday in July as a special treat I am planning on booking a 10 night break in CSS without her knowledge as a birthday surprise (hopefully she will only find out the destination when we have to book in at the airport)
However in order to pull off the surprise and for me to make suitable plans and advise her what to pack it would help if any of you could answer some of my questions
First of all will we need any Vaccinations (we are from the UK).
Do I need to book the Airport Lounge on the island for our inward and outward journeys or is it taken care of by Couples?
So I know what we need to pack clothes wise, what is the weather like in mid to late July – presume it will be hot but does it rain at all, is it light or heavy in an evening (in Florida we had a thunderstorm virtually every night around 5pm) and if so do we need umbrellas, rain macs or are they supplied by the hotel. Also, is it just the bookable restaurants that you have to wear trousers or can you wear decent tailored shorts and does my wife have to wear a dress or can she wear a skirt or shorts?
Although its many years ago that we used to frequent beaches for an all over tan (and it may take a bit of encouragement for me to get my wife to go to the Au Nat beach now she is a lot older and more body conscious) I was wondering what time the beach, pool and pool bar open as we are normally in the sun by about 8:30am and I wondered do people cover up when having lunch?. Also I have read that people come over for the sunset at 5pm – what time is sunset in July as 5pm seems very early.
I have seen a lot of reviews where people say you need to stay in a certain block to be close to the beach or the bar or if you want to be in a quiet location etc – how big is the resort? Eg how many minutes would it take to walk from the furthest block to the beach or one end of the resort to the other?
In the rooms do we get things like soap, shampoo, etc or do we bring our own and as they are heavy and fill up a suitcase do we have towels in the room which we can take to the beach or can we pick them up by the pool or beach each day (even at 8:30am). Are there a lot of plug sockets or do we need to bring an extension lead? Are there hairdryers and are they powerful as my wife has long hair so it can take a while to dry and style.
I notice there is a Safe in the room – how big is it as I will have my camera and camcorder with me and probably a small laptop as well as passports etc that would need to go in them and are they key lock able or are they coded?
With regards money – are all trips included free or do we pay for them?, Are drinks from the in room mini bar and any cocktails in the bars free? If not how do we pay for them, do we pay by cash or card during the holiday or settle up at departure?
Finally we both like to snorkel – if we don’t bring our own can we hire them in resort and again are they free or is there a cost? And when in the water, I presume the reef will have a variety of fish but is there anything that may think we are a tasty bite? When we were in the Maldives the local sharks were black tipped reefed sharks and quite harmless but there were Trigger fish that were very aggressive and had very sharp teeth.
Also any other tips or things I may have forgotten?
April 23rd, 2013, 08:17 PM #2Member
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
Falcon, Congrats on your 25th anniversary. I am happy you will be surprizing Mrs. Falcon wih a wonderful trip! I am from the states so I do not know if there is something special about vaccines for you, but here nothing, your good to go. I am not sure what you mean by the airport lounge, but the Couples lounge is free, and they will be expecting you. Contact Couples before departure to let them know your flight info, better yet sign up for Romance Rewards and that can be arranged easily. We have been to Jamaica only in May, Dec, and Oct. so I can not tell you about July, except there are umbrellas in the room, and I am unsure what a Mac is??
For Cassanova you must wear pants, closed shoes, and a shirt with a collar. No tie or jacket needed. Mrs. Falcon would be more comfortable in a dress, but I have seen dress pants and blouses on woman, tell her to bring a little shawl if she chills easy because of air conditioning.
Pallazina is more casual but "nice", Bella Vista is casual, but nice. You will see a wide range of dress, but out of the 3 couples we have been at CSS guests probably dress up the most, but this is not like super formal.
You should have cover ups for Mrs. Falcon to wear for lunch, depending on where you eat. Most people put real clothes on at the Pallazina for lunch, the grills, no, but bring coverups.
Pools really do not close, but pool bars open at 10Am and close at 5Pm. Textiles are allowed at Sunset Beach after 5PM. The resort is large and spread out, but the beaches are small, but private. There are some trade offs, but the beauty of CSS is worth the couple drawbacks. Especially because it is authentic beauty, not recreated or manufactured. Depends on where your room is, if you want to be close to the beach, stay in A or B blocks, if you want amazing views go in the mountain rooms, but then you have stairs. So again a trade off, depending on what you like. You probably can get anywhere on the resort with in 15 min. depending on how fast you walk or climb.
I believe they provide liquid and bar soap, shampoo, not conditioner, and lotion. Let Mrs. Falcon decide on what she needs. There is a store at the resort where you can get things. Just make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen like spf 2,000. There is a nurse on the property. Towels in room for bathing, and beach. Also bathrobes are provided. Hair dryer I think is low power, but gets the job done, leave that to Mrs Falcon, she knows her hair. Bring hats and sunglasses. The safe is a keypad, should accomodate small laptop, camera, wallets, passports fine. No tipping, except non couples employees, like baggage handlers, bus drivers, massage therapists.
Minibar is included, house wines at dinner are included, you can upgrade to a more expensive wine if you want, this is for wine people that maybe want something more special if you like, but you do not have to buy it. You pay for incidentals by the credit card you provided on check in. Can not really speak about snorkeling, I do not think the waters are known for this, but I know it is included and they have equipment there, but you can bring your own. The people are wonderful there and will do anything to make your stay special.The best thing is you can drink the water, it is safe and delicious, never been sick except for sun poisoning in 10 trips, knock on wood. Book early, good luck and enjoy, let us know what you thought of it .
April 24th, 2013, 09:15 AM #3Junior Member
- Join Date
- Jul 2009
Let me begin this is quite a list. 1st thing the weather is usually in the 90's and yes sometimes there is a thunderstorm. We can't control the weather. I am unaware of any vaccinations you would need, I am from the states and have many friends in the UK and they never have mentioned any. The lounge on your arrival is not necessary Couples has a lounge and it is free. You won't be there very long as they are very good about getting you on a bus and on your way to the resort. As far as the dress for dinner yes long pants are recommended as well as a dress for the ladies. Sunset beach is open early as everyone has there favorite spot and your wife will find the atmosphere very relaxed. When you first arrive there are towels in the room but you can also pick up towels at the dive shop. You turn them in daily and when you are leaving to return home the night before you get a reciept to turn in. The safe in the room is pretty big it depends on your camera size and camcorder. They have a safe in the great house as well I believe. When you arrive your credit card will be taken for incidentals, There is a no tipping policy, You will be asked to fill out a comments card when you leave and please write down any names of employees who have shown you exceptional service. There is a list of inclusions. Snorkeling is free and yes they have the gear at no cost to you. They have some excursions off of the resort that are extra you contact the tour desk at the great house for those.
One other tip: Have fun, you will make new friends and have a great vacation. Ask any questions people are happy to assist. I hope you meet you at Sunset beach some day. Oh the spa is not included but it is very affordable.
April 24th, 2013, 01:31 PM #4Junior Member
- Join Date
- Apr 2013
First of all, thanks Radioop for taking the trouble to reply, I thought I had perhaps asked too many questions in one go.
Secondly, I had forgotten that the majority of visitors will be American/Canadian so should have remembered the differences in our common language ie trousers=pants, for info Rain Mac is a waterproof jacket (named after its inventor Charles Macintosh) but that is the beauty of travelling abroad as you get to meet people from all types of backgrounds and cultures etc and would not it be a boring world if we were all the same so can't wait to get to Jamaica now.
With regards your reply I have discovered visitors need an Hepatitis A vaccine but we have already had that for previous holidays and will look into Romance Rewards as per your suggestion.
When you say 'closed shoes' does that mean anything that is not an open toe shoe like a sandal. ie can it be made of material eg canvas or does it have to be a proper shoe.
Thank you for the tip about cover ups at lunch, personally I would rather have a pair of shorts or swim trunks on when eating as seeing myself naked would put me off my food never mind other people.
What time does it get dark in an evening in Jamaica?
I am glad to hear you can walk anywhere in 15 minutes as looking at the holiday choices offered by the travel company it looks like it will be block C unless we upgrade to a Ocean Veranda Suite.
How much do you tip non employees as although it seems to be standard in America for everything we British do not tip very often and I do not want to over or under tip someone in case I offend them.
Do you think Sans Souci would do anything special with regards birthdays eg give us a room upgrade etc, supply birthday cake etc or is it up to me to sort something nice like booking Casanova or a massage etc.
Thank you in anticipation of a reply and I look forward to meeting anyone who will be out in CSS from the 10th to 20th July.
April 24th, 2013, 09:43 PM #5Junior Member
- Join Date
- Dec 2011
Oh Falcon, you and your wife are in for a treat.
After 5 years of going to Mexico, in March of 2012 we went to CSS for 2 weeks, and fell in love with Jamaica and CSS. This year we tried 2 weeks at Couples Negril, and while it had a wonderful beach, couldn't come close to Sans Souci. While "radioop" has covered most of the points, here are a few more things which might help. Cash: not necessary for the most part, but when you register they will take a swipe of a credit card, which you can use for items purchased from the small gift shop on site or the more expensive jewellery store also on site. If you wish to take an optional tour (the only one I might suggest is to raft down the Martha Brae (virtually every tour book has a picture of this). While it is a beautiful, relaxing trip, it does cost about $80 or $90 U.S. - mostly to pay for the taxi ride to the location. The only negative is the trip to the tour itself, as it is located just outside Montego Bay and takes about 2 hours each way. You will want to cary so US cash (mostly 5's) to give to the taxi driver who takes you to the resort from the airport and then back again. As well, when you go to Dunns River Falls, take some cash for anything you might want to buy when you have to go through the "market area" at Dunns on your way out. WARNING - as you walk into Dunns, ignore the people at the entrance who ask you what your name is. Like lightning, it will be carved into a small wooden "head" and given to you, then you will be "asked" for money to cover the cost (I ended up with 2 "heads" and down $10 :-)
What you will also discover is a lot of stairs, but after about 2 days, you won't even notice them.
What we loved were all the pathways which lead to secluded hot-tubs, or a couple of hammocks, or just a quiet place to sit and relax.
In fact, this was the first vacation we have ever been on where the "vacation" feeling lasted, not for days, but for weeks/months after we returned home. The people are wonderful, the food - better than you can ever imagine, and every night there is entertainment by the balloon bar that features a different, professional level entertainer every night.
In fact, we so loved everything about the resort that we will be going back there this Dec. for 10 days, and on the 16th will be getting married (we are a Canadian couple in our 60's who have been together for almost 8 years and decided that "it's time")
By the way, one of the things we both loved about CSS was that about 65% -70% of the people there were from the UK. You will feel right at home.
John & Carol
April 25th, 2013, 06:55 PM #6Junior Member
- Join Date
- Apr 2013
Thank you everyone for your replies and the tips on things like talking to locals at Dunns - I just wished that the posts appear straight after being written (like most other forums I have been on) so you can get quick responses to questions and not have to wait around 24 hours until vetted by admin (presume they have their reasons and the time difference between the UK and the Caribbean does not help) as being new to the forum and first time holidaying in the area there are lots of questions that I think of during the day but these last few days its been quicker to 'google' them rather than post on here.
From what has been posted on here and what I have found out these last few days plus having watched a few videos on Youtube I can't wait to get there and am already putting together in my mind a list of must do's during the holidays which I want to do and hopefully my wife will like as well.
The biggest problem I have is that I am getting rather excited at what we are going to experience during our vacation but as I can't say anything to my wife as she does not know where we are going or tell my sons in case they say anything to her I am almost at bursting point so god help me get through the next 10 weeks.
Mark (rather than Falcon) and my wife is called Helen
April 25th, 2013, 09:04 PM #7Member
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
Falcon, I did not know you needed a Hepatitis A vaccine, that is interesting. Register for Romance Rewards, because you will get credit for your trip and you can do it on thiswebsite under that tab, very easy. Book early and really the room you want, be carefull if you need a real balcony since there are a few rooms without one, and do not count on an upgrade because simply the rooms sell out quick an they are usually full.
Check out the accomodations tab to make sure you book what you want.
I do not know how to describe the closed shoe thing, I think I got that under the resort rules tab maybe. I put my husband in khackis, a button down short sleeved shirt with an oxford collar, or dress shirt, socks and like a loafer type of shoe, or black dress shoes if he is in black pants. That is for Cassanova, they ask that you dress up for the Friday night gala as well, but we have seen a wide range of dress for that. They put sooo much work into it, you want to look nice.
I am not sure what time it gets dark, maybe 8-9Pm. There is lights everywhere so you can find your way, but we are staying up in the mountain for our first time in 7 trips this May, and I am bringing two small flashlighs just in case.
Tipping for the bus driver I think my husband gives him like 10$ US, so whatever that would be in the Euro I think is fine. I think they take any kind of money. There are people from all over. Germany, France, Canada, US, so they are accustomed to the different currancy. We do not go to the spa so I do not know what you would tip them, for baggage handlers, like 2$ a bag U.S. So it is not much. They really discourage tipping the Couples resort employee's, but some people like to bring little gifts like chocolate, or candy for the maid. Other people bring some school supplies. The best you can do is write special employees names down, and put them on your departure comment card. They get a bonus for that I believe.
I think they would do a little something for your wife's birthday, like a cake. I would not count on any kind of upgrade, again because they are usually full. A lot of guests are celebrating anniversarys, engagements and weddings. It is a very romantic, beautiful, and relaxed resort, but not beachy like the Negril side. I would suggest a private dinner, you pay extra for this, but they make it very special and it would be a nice celebration for her birthday or anniversary.
beej&cc made a good point about the vendors at the falls, just walk by, they are very aggresive, and they were the only negative experience we ever had in Jamaica.
CSS has some nice venders that are very respectful, not pushy at all, and you can buy some nice things. The gift shop has some nice things as well and they are very reasonably priced, except for sun screen. If you must buy sunscreen in Jamaica, you will pay for it! LOL. I hope this helps and you have a great time, jut relax and enjoy, I know you will love it. I will not tell you everything so you can find and discover things together with Mrs. Falcon.
April 25th, 2013, 10:00 PM #8Junior Member
- Join Date
- Dec 2011
First of all, there is a large umbrella in every room in case it rains "liquid sunshine". That said, a "mac" might be a good addition to the luggage.
As for closed shoes, I picked up an inexpensive pair of black canvas, rubber soled shoes which can be worn without socks. Think "boat shoes". No, you don't need black leather shoes - way too hot and formal for Jamaica. They just don't want sandals or "running shoes" at the good restaurant.
We were in the Ocean suite veranda - "Evergreen 7", which was a wonderful room. We loved that it was near the balloon lounge, but also that you could walk off the veranda (which had a lounger, round patio table with 4 chairs, and a love seat) down 2 steps and be on a large patio overlooking the ocean.
It starts getting dark about 5:30 'ish but dark around 6:30. One thing we loved about the resort is that it is well lit, and you always feel safe.
One thing you should do is go to youtube and look for Couples sans Souci - Gala night. The lawn by the beach is transformed into a wonderland of white "tents ' covered in tiny white lights. Absolutely beautiful.
By the way, while the crowd at Couples Negril was mostly composed of Americans, CSS was about 75% Brits and Canadians, but also a fair number of Germans and a few Americans. Plus, while CN had an average age about 30 to 40, CSS is more around 50's to 60's.
If you want something special, like a birthday cake, speak to them when you check in at the resort - they will always go the extra mile to accomodate you.
Oh, one last thing. The "trip to the market" will take you to a small, outdoors mall called the Taj Mahal - where you can pick up some reasonable "trinkets", but at virtually every one of the stores, you will be greeted with "For you today - everything half price" in an East indian accent. You can't say you weren't warned :-)
John and Carol (who was born in a little place called Southend-on sea)
April 26th, 2013, 08:20 PM #9Member
- Join Date
- Sep 2009
Falcon, What a thoughtful husband you are!!!!:-) What my husband did for my birthday surprise, while I was still sleeping he went and purchased a Romance Package at Guest Services. The package he purchased had rose petals and candles....when we returned to our room from our day at SSB, there was a trail of rose petals from the front door, on the bed and leading into our walk in shower where the candles were lit! Very romantic. Also, at Casanova that night he also arranged for a small birthday cake....I don't believe they charged extra for the small cake. We will be arrive on July 17, hopefully we will meet!
April 28th, 2013, 03:41 PM #10Senior Member
- Join Date
- Sep 2011
I will try to answer your questions as best I can, from my own experience, but everyone's own experience may be different. I can tell you that CSS is an amazing place and you will have the time of your lives. It has to be the most romantic place on earth where you and your wife can be as social as you want, or as private as you want. Even when the resort is fully booked, it doesn't seem that way. It also has a certain ambiance about it that makes you feel at home, at ease, at peace.
The resort is very spread out with many places to explore, so a walk around is very entertaining. The furthest block of rooms from the beach is G block, our fave, but still only 5-7 minutes walk to SSB. there are a lot of stairs there, but I think it helps with burning off the calories you eat with the amazing food. A and B block are on the main beach, and closest to SSB. You can't go wrong with any room you choose.
Vaccinations are probably not needed but certainly check with your doctor.
There is a Couples lounge at the airport where they serve cold beer and drinks, check you in, and usually within 15-20 minutes you are on the bus to paradise. The baggage handlers there are not Couples employees, so bring some small bills for tips for them only. We usually tip $1 a bag to carry them to the bus, and $10 each to the bus driver when we get to CSS.
For the liquid sunshine...aka rain, there is an umbrella in every room, and the showers usually don't last long. If the storms passing through are more extensive, it makes for a good time for some indoor activity....hehe...
The more fancy restaurant is Casanova's, and yes you will need long pants of some sort and closed toes shoes. You wife will be fine with any kind of dress, as if you were going to a fancy restaurant back home. Remember that lighter clothes will be your friend.
SSB, or sunset beach has to be the most relaxing, non judgmental place. You will feel very comfortable there. There will be all shapes and sizes, ages, races, religions, etc. best part is no one cares. there will always be someone older, someone, younger, someone bigger, someone, smaller. It really doesn't matter there. You will meet some of the most amazing coolest people on SSB. Go and enjoy. Don't forget the sunscreen...
They do provide soap and shampoo in the room, although it is good, your wife may be more comfortable with what she is used to to using. The hair dryer is more than powerful, but if you bring your own, the power system in Jamaica is north american, so you may want to bring a power converter for such.
The safe in the room has ample room for cash, passports, cameras, etc. I don't think it is quite big enough for a laptop, but something like an ipad would certainly fit.
For cash, you only need it for any excursions you go on and for shopping. Anything you buy at the on site gift shop will be charged to your room, but something like Dunn's River Falls, you ill need cash for your guide, bus driver, and for and pictures or souvenirs you may fancy.
Snorkling is included, and the use of the equipment is free of charge. They actually do have some good quality equipment there, and you won't be disappointed.
On a side note, there are a few things you must do to make this a vacation to remember. Do a private dinner, either on the beach, the wedding gazebo, or even on the balcony of your room. It is well worth the money. Do Dunn's river falls. Do a Bob Marley drink. Do a couples massage at the spa. Do dinner at least once at Cassanova's.
CSS is our second home. I certainly hope you enjoy it as much as we do. No glitz, no marble, no granite, no stuffiness, no kids, no singles.... just an amazing relaxing time in paradise....
April 29th, 2013, 06:26 AM #11Junior Member
- Join Date
- Apr 2013
Thank you everyone for your replies they have been extremely useful and I can now start to prepare for the vacation with your guidance and tips.
One question that I could still do with advice on is as a birthday treat I am thinking of booking a Spa session but what would the ladies on here recommend as the best type of massage to book as I am happy to have any type (have only ever had one and liked it) but want her to enjoy it as its her special day.
ps John & Carol - I know of the little place called Southend on Sea - although we live in Sheffield my son's girlfriend comes from Canvey Island and they go to Southend for a night out!!
May 1st, 2013, 04:16 AM #12Senior Member
- Join Date
- Jul 2010
Feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org about this if you have any further questions. My wife and I are visiting CSS for the third time on 7th June and would be pleased to assist with those last minute queries. I can give you my mobile number if you want to chat.
You have chosen well Sir. It really is a brilliant place to be for a whole fortnight.
May 1st, 2013, 01:26 PM #13Junior Member
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
Falcon, you will not be disappointed. We have been to CSS three times and the fourth is this Sept. I will clarify the closed toed shoe policy. All the times that we went to Cassanova and the other resturants, I wore sandals which had the leather fronts, so my toes weren't showing. No problem as others wore the same.
May 2nd, 2013, 10:52 AM #14Senior Member
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
Congrats on your 25th, and welcome to the board.
We arrive July 9th for 7th trip to CSS and our 9th to a Couples Resort. Come join us on over on the “Meet Up Thread”. There are two threads for July, “July 2013” and “July 2013 Getting to Know You” threads. Great group of folks show up in July that we have gotten to know over the years and can’t wait to see them and meet new friends…Feel free to ask away with any questions…
Jeff and Susan
CSS: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010,
2011, 2012, 2013